Making the decision

There are two separate but interlinked decisions that you must make – firstly is the MBA programme something that would benefit you at this point in your life, career and personal development and secondly is Cranfield the right business school for you.

In deciding the answer to the first question – would the MBA programme be of benefit – you will need to weigh up the costs, both time and money, of taking a year off from work, dislocating yourself to the other side of the world (where – the average Aussie would say – the weather is not that good) to undertake a year long intensive learning experience at the professional and personal level. At the end of that year – there must be a payoff for the investment.

It is interesting to note that before people make the decision, they worry about things such as: “Will I be able to afford it or will I get a job that pays well enough to justify the investment or will it increase my long term career prospects?” That is, the focus is on the professional financial payoff.

But post Cranfield, what alumni talk about is the difference in perspective that they have gained, the increased personal confidence, lifelong friendships that they made and the job opportunities that simply would never have been within reach before they undertook their studies, that is, the personal payoff. All those worries that loomed so large about learning something useful or the financial aspects simply become irrelevant after you have actually completed your year of study.

Choosing the right MBA Programme

The second question to consider is that, having decided to do the MBA, you must choose the right business school as not all business schools are the same. This excellent article, written by Sean Rickard,  outlines some of these key differences.

A topic that Sean R’s article does not highlight however, is that the one of the big differentiators in business schools is between the one year MBA programmes and the two year ones. Many of the MBA programmes offered around the world are two year programmes, simply because they accept students who do not have work experience and therefore need to cover more introductory material in the syllabus. For example, Harvard B-school is a two year programme where students can go straight from an undergraduate course onto the MBA. The WSJ Survey—”Fast Track to the Fast Path“—shows how highly Cranfield ranks compared to all the other one year MBA programmes.

The one year MBA programme covers more content in a intensive form than the two year programmes simply because students are older and have more work experience and secondly because the teaching year for the one year programme is one long calendar year with no breaks rather than two shorter academic years. The teaching pace is thus faster and longer, which allows these programmes to cover more material even though the elapsed time period is less.

On average, Cranfield students have 9 years of work experience, compared to 4 years for Harvard and 5 years for Melbourne Business School. As teaching is based on Case Study analysis, the practical experience and contribution of fellow students makes a huge difference to the quality of what you will learn.

The Cranfield Experience

You will hear alumni talk about the Cranfield Experience and it is mentioned extensively in the material on the Cranfield website.

One of the things that contributes greatly, is the location of the campus itself. Cranfield University is situated just 75km northwest of London on an old WWII airfield, in the British countryside. It has easy access by road M1, rail from nearby Milton Keynes and has a local airstrip for those who want to fly in!  So when you do get a spare time at the end of term, you can then do some traveling to the rest of the UK and Europe.

But what does that really mean? The unofficial version is this. Whilst Cranfield is set in beautiful countryside just 10 minutes from the major town of Milton Keynes, for all intents and purposes it is remote “on another planet” and there are no distractions. As most students live on campus, pretty much all your time revolves around the course work and your fellow students.

As an intensive saturation into the world of business it creates a hugely accelerated learning experience which simply cannot be matched by doing an MBA in a “normal” university environment. You talk, eat and sleep the course for 7 days a week, 15 to 18 hours a day. There is simply no escape! In other words – it’s a “business bootcamp”.

Alex Chapman recalls:

“I remember everywhere I went with fellow students, we analysed everything in the context of the course material; standing in Marks & Spencers discussing why they packed deserts in three’s; in the queue to buy movie tickets and watching how they managed the sales at the popcorn counter.

Anything and everything became a topic of discussion. In actual fact, the MBA students became pretty boring company for that year I feel. It does take a few months to come back down to earth afterwards and learn to have a normal conversation.

Oh—why the 3 deserts per pack? Because for a couple, the husband will always have the extra one and for a family with 3 children, they buy a two packs, again leaving an extra one for dad or the kids to fight over. It’s a clever way of increasing sales revenue for little extra marginal cost.”

You can also read all the blogs and watch the videos made by past years’ students  here

Course content and emphasis

MBA programmes from different Schools around the Globe all have their own unique focus and emphasis. Different schools have different areas of focus—some are oriented to M&A actiivities, some to financial engineering and so forth. Each industry has its own “preferred business schools” so you need to be aware of this so that you make a choice which aligns with your own long-term career path. If you want to become a rocket scientist in financial engineering tools, you may be better off at, say, MIT or Wharton.

Cranfield’s strength is summed by its catchphrase—”turning knowledge into action”. Cranfield has a very practical managerial focus with an emphasis on case-study based learning in learning teams, personal development and leadership development.

Martin Dalgliesh (MBA 1997) and winner of the Odgers prize for “the full time MBA student with most potential for a highly successful career in management”, describes his view of Cranfield and the reasons why he choose it above other alternative schools:

“I think [it’s] broadly right for the banking/consulting/financial services industry that Cranfield would be considered a tier 2 for candidates from those industries compared to Harvard, Stanford, Kellog, Insead, IMD etc.

But for general management Cranfield would elevate in my view to Tier 1 – so for candidates who come from a line management background and wish to progress their career towards GM/MD/CEO of an operating company, it would be a viable option.   In some respect, I’m a good case study – good blue chip line management expertise prior to Cranfield but developed into a large enterprise CEO/MD afterwards.  I chose Cranfield over IMD, Insead in particular for those GM forming capabilities.

Best, Martin”  (See also, Martin quoted in The Independent article here.)

Many Cranfield Alumni will tell you that their time at Cranfield was very influential on their personal development. Australian alumni describe what they were doing, why they chose Cranfield and what they got out of it.

The MBA course structure is shown here. The teaching programme is designed to bring all students with up to speed on core topics in the first half of the course and then allow personal areas of interest to come into play for the choice of second half electives. The Cranfield course content handles the usual basics to be expected from a masters course and adds a fine blend of “eye opening”, “influential” and “at times life changing” personal development.

John McFarlane talks about the MBA programme.

Investment v’s return

When you do an MBA, you are investing:

  • Your time (effectively 13 months allowing for travel and orientation time) for the course and then afterwards while you search for a job
  • The cost of the course fees and living expenses
  • The forgone income whilst you are not working (it is not possible to work whilst at Cranfield due to the demands of the course load)
  • Any additional incremental costs

The return on that investment comes from;

  • Increased salary post-MBA
  • Increased career progression and opportunities which you get as a result of the MBA

The AFR BOSS MBA Rankings Survey summarises the costs, time and  contact hours for  all the Australian MBA programmes most of which are delivered over 2 elapsed years.

When you do the comparisons against the Australian business schools, you’ll find that the investment in the Cranfield MBA is very cost comparative considering the much shorter time out of the workforce for Cranfield compared to the longer Australian programmes.

Cranfield salary survey data shows that increases of 36%-372% in salary for MBA are achievable. Cranfield MBA graduates typically earn high salaries upon graduation – reflecting both increased skills plus their age and work experience prior to study.

Occasional surveys conducted by Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other leading business magazines consistently place Cranfield in the top rankings on a range of categories including employer satisfaction and alumni satisfaction.

Financing the course

The financial investment in undertaking the MBA is considerable. Most people use a combination of personal savings, borrowings, & sponsorships, even redundancy monies—and also our scholarship.

You will need to allow for course fees and also living costs, travel and of course books. One of the advantages that Cranfield offers is that most students live in accomodation on-campus which is very reasonably priced. The other factor that keeps the cost of living during the MBA year low, is that there is no time to do much except attend lectures, work in learning teams and sleep. Food in Halls of Residence may get a little dull, but it saves time, is very acceptable and reasonable in cost. Thus, the lack of distractions also tends to keep living costs low.

The Cranfield Australian Alumni Scholarship will cover all the course fees and make a major contribution to the airfare and living expenses for one (or make a good contribution for those who wish to take partners/ families).

The Prodigy Loan Scheme

Applicants accepted onto the one-year Full-time MBA programme are now eligible to benefit from an innovative loan programme that the school has organised through Prodigy Finance Limited, a company specialising in international educational finance.

The dedicated programme, which involves a bond system, is initially funded by a £500,000 investment by Cranfield University, but it is hoped further matched funds will be invested by alumni. With over 150 countries covered by the agreement, the School aims to make it easier for applicants to finance their studies at competitive rates.

Even if you do not win the Australian Scholarship, you can apply for one of the other  scholarships and awards on offer and/or the loan through the Prodigy scheme. Australian students are eligible for loans from this scheme.

 Further details areon the Cranfield MBA website:

Friendships and Alumni Network

The value of gaining like-minded friends and associates is immense. You will develop some very close friendships which last many years – some MBAs even get married to partners they meet on the course.

The Cranfield name make you part of a world-wide network which will give you access to a wide range of like minded individuals. The Australian Alumni comprises a mix of Australians who have returned home, as well as individuals from overseas who have  made Australia their home.

Around the globe, International Presidents act as the focus point for alumni activities.

CMA International President for Australia, Alexandra Chapman, explains what this means:

“The alumni community plays an incredibly important role socially and also professionally. On the social front, we organise regular events, during the year and of course, have the Award dinner in May every year. On the professional front, the alumni network is incredibly helpful, if you are moving countries and/or want help finding a job. CMAworld allows you to make contact with alumni by company, location or year. And most alumni are only to happy to receive contacts and pass them on. In my own personal case, we found our US partner via the alumni network. Every few weeks, I get emails from alumni wanting to move to Australia, or students just about to graduate and I always take time to refer them to people locally that may be interested in them and organise drinks with a few of the local alumni. It means you can “parachute in” and at least know a few people.”

Further reading

You will need to read a lot about the MBA itself, the selection process, and what happens after you finish study. We suggest you do the usual Google trawl for appropriate sites. We’ve collated some below that provide invaluable information.